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Spotlight

Public Health Risks Of Extending Licenses
Of The Indian Point 2 and 3 Nuclear Reactors

Joseph J. Mangano, MPH, MBA
Executive Director
Radiation and Public Health Project

November 12, 2007

Advisors:
Rosalie Bertell PhD, founder of the International Institute of Concern for Public Health
Marci Culley PhD, associate professor of psychology, Georgia State University
Samuel Epstein MD, professor emeritus of public health, Univ. of Illinois-Chicago
Sam Galewsky PhD, associate professor of biology, Millikin (IL) University
Donald Louria MD, professor of preventive medicine, New Jersey Medical School
Kay Kilburn MD, retired professor of medicine, University of Southern California
Janette Sherman MD, adjunct professor, Environmental Institute, Western Michigan Univ

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Click on desired item to view that section of the report, or simply scroll down.

Executive Summary

I. Introduction
A. Brief History of Nuclear Power and Indian Point
B. Radioactivity Produced in Reactors

II. Health Hazards Posed by Reactor Meltdowns
A. Description
B. Estimates of Casualties

III. Radioactivity from Indian Point
A. Environmental Releases from Indian Point
B. Environmental Radioactivity Levels Near Indian Point
C. Radioactivity Levels in Bodies Near Indian Point

IV. Potential Health Risks from Indian Point
A. Prior Studies
B. Defining Local Population
C. Cancer Incidence
D. Cancer Mortality

V. Studies of Improved Health After Reactor Shutdown
A. Precedent – Atomic Bomb Testing Halt
B. Precedent – Nuclear Reactor Closing
C. Potential Cancer Reductions After Indian Point Closing

VI. Summary and Policy Implications

VII. Appendix 1
   

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Indian Point nuclear plant, 35 miles north of midtown Manhattan, has three reactors, two of which remain in operation. Entergy Nuclear, which operates the plant, has requested that the federal government extend the operating licenses of the two reactors for 20 additional years beyond their 2013 and 2015 expiration dates.

To date, federal officials have not acknowledged any public health risks of license extension at Indian Point. This report explores risks from extending the Indian Point licenses.

Continued operation of Indian Point raises the risk of radioactivity exposure in two ways.

  • First, the reactor cores would produce high-level waste to be added to the 1,500 tons already at the site, worsening the consequences of a large-scale release.
  • Second, because reactors routinely release radioactivity, keeping Indian Point in service would mean greater releases and risks to local residents.

The principal findings of this report are:

  1. A large-scale release of radioactivity in a meltdown, from mechanical failure or act of sabotage, would harm thousands through acute radiation poisoning or cancer.
  2. Indian Point has released the 5th greatest amount of airborne radioactivity out of 72 U.S. nuclear plants. In some periods, releases are up to 100 times greater than normal.
  3. Radioactivity levels in the Hudson River near Indian Point are over 10 times greater than those in Albany. Large variations exist in local radioactivity levels; for example, 2006 airborne radioactivity was three times as high in late fall, than in late spring.
  4. Levels of Strontium-90 in local baby teeth are the highest of any area near seven U.S. nuclear plants. Local children born in the late 1990s have an average Sr-90 level 38% greater than those born a decade earlier.
  5. In the four counties closest to Indian Point, the incidence of cancer exceeds the state and national rates. In 2000-2004, excess cancer cases range from 2090 to 3631.
  6. Local incidence rates of childhood cancer and thyroid cancer, both known to be sensitive to radiation exposure, are among the highest in New York State. Local thyroid cancer incidence is about 70% above the U.S. rate.
  7. Cancer incidence in the towns within five miles of Indian Point is 20% greater than the rest of Rockland and Westchester Counties.
  8. There is a statistical link between average levels of Strontium-90 in local baby teeth and local childhood cancer rates.
  9. If closing Indian Point is associated with decreases in cancer mortality as it did near the Rancho Seco CA plant, 5000 fewer cancer deaths would occur in the next 20 years.

While many factors contribute to cancer risk, evidence suggests that more detailed study on Indian Point is warranted, and that the public be informed of any health risks.
  

I. Introduction
A. Brief History of Nuclear Power and Indian Point

The discovery of nuclear fission, or creation of high energy by splitting uranium atoms, was first used for military purposes, i.e. the atomic bombs in Japan during World War II. Soon after, other uses of the fission process were introduced. One of these was the creation of electric power from the heat generated by fission. The “Atoms for Peace” speech given at the United Nations by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953 opened the door for the development of reactors that would produce electricity.

Hundreds of reactors were proposed by electric utilities, who were interested based on the potential to produce clean and cheap energy. In the New York City area, many reactors were discussed, and federal applications were formally submitted for a total of 16 within 100 miles of midtown Manhattan (Table 1). Of these, only five eventually operated and only three still remain in operation (Indian Point 2, Indian Point 3, and Oyster Creek).

Table 1
Nuclear Power Reactors Within 100 Miles of Midtown Manhattan
With Formal Applications to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission

Reactor
State
Miles/Dir
From NYC
Ordered
Startup
Closed
1. Indian Point 1
NY
35 mi. N
1955
1962
1974
2. Indian Point 2
NY
35 mi. N
1965
1973
 
3. Indian Point 3
NY
35 mi. N
1967
1976
 
4. Haddam Neck
CT
90 mi. NE
1962
1967
1995
5. Oyster Creek
NJ
65 mi. SW
1963
1969
 
6. Ravenswood
NY
3 mi. E
1962
   
7. Shoreham
NY
55 mi. NE
1968
   
8. Burlington 1
NJ
80 mi. SW
1966
   
9. Burlington 2
NJ
80 mi. SW
1966
   
10. Verplanck 1
NY
35 mi. N
1968
   
11. Verplanck 2
NY
35 mi. N
1968
   
12. Forked River
NJ
65 mi. SW
1973
   
13. Atlantic 1
NJ
100 mi. S
1974
   
14. Atlantic 2
NJ
100 mi. S
1974
   
15. Jamesport 1
NY
75 mi. E
1974
   
16. Jamesport 2
NY
75 mi. E
1974
   

Source: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, www.nrc.gov

The Indian Point plant is the former site of an amusement park in the town of Buchanan, in northwestern Westchester County. It is located on the Hudson River, the source of power needed to operate the plant. Five reactors were once proposed for the site; however, the Verplanck 1 and 2 reactors were cancelled in the 1970s, and the Indian Point unit 1 reactor closed permanently in 1974.

The Indian Point units 2 and 3 reactors have the capacity to generate 951 and 965 megawatts of electricity, respectively, much more than the unit 1 capacity of 257. The reactors went critical (began producing radioactivity) on May 22, 1973 and April 6, 1976, respectively. To date, no U.S. reactor has operated longer than 38 years, making the 34 and 31 year-old Indian Point reactors among the oldest.
  

B. Radioactivity Produced in Reactors

To produce electricity, nuclear power reactors split uranium-235 atoms, generating high energy that is transformed into electrical power. This splitting process, known as fission, also produces over 100 chemicals not found in nature. These chemicals are the same as those found in the large clouds of fallout after above-ground atomic bomb tests.

Fission products, which take the form of gases and particles, include Cesium-137, Iodine-131, and Strontium-90. They are highly unstable atoms which emit alpha particles, beta particles, or gamma rays. When they enter the body, they affect various organs. Cesium seeks out the muscles (including the heart and reproductive organs), iodine attacks the thyroid gland, and strontium attaches to bone. Each causes cancer after damaging DNA in cells and creating mutations, and is especially harmful to the fetus, infant, and child. Some decay quickly (Iodine-131 has a half life of 8 days), while others remain for long periods (Strontium-90 has a half life of 29 years).

Most of the radioactivity produced in reactors is contained within the reactor building and stored as high-level waste in deep pools of water that must be constantly cooled. At Indian Point and at other aging plants, the pools are becoming full. Some of the waste has been transferred to above-ground outdoor casks, and this process is expected to begin at Indian Point in late 2007. Indian Point currently maintains over 1,500 tons of waste on site, and additional radioactivity in the reactor cores. The amount of radioactivity at the plant is equivalent to several times as much as present at the Chernobyl site, and hundreds of times as much as was released at Hiroshima in 1945.

The federal government has designated Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a permanent waste site. Yucca has encountered much opposition, and will not open until at least 2018 (according to the U.S. Energy Department). Some experts believe that Yucca Mountain or any permanent repository will never open, leaving existing nuclear plants to maintain the waste indefinitely.
  

II. Health Hazards Posed by Reactor Meltdowns
A. Description

Much of the health concern posed by nuclear reactors is on the effects of a major meltdown. The radioactivity in a reactor core and waste pools must be constantly cooled by water, or the fuel will heat uncontrollably, causing a huge release of radioactivity. This release can be caused by mechanical failure (such as what happened at Chernobyl in 1986, when safeguard redundancy was deliberately shut off for testing purposes) or by a deliberate act of sabotage.

The experience at Hiroshima and Nagasaki demonstrated how exposure to high levels of radioactivity can harm humans. Those closest to the bombs were vaporized, literally melting from the intense heat. But many other victims who survived the initial blast developed acute radiation poisoning, marked by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin burns, weakness, dehydration, bleeding, hair loss, ulcerations, bloody stool, and skin sloughing (falling off), according to the Medical Encyclopedia of the National Library of Medicine. In addition, a large number of bomb survivors in the two cities developed cancers over the next several decades; thyroid cancer had the greatest excess, according to a 1994 report. (Source: Thompson DE et al. Cancer Incidence in Atomic Bomb Survivors. Part II: Solid Tumore, 1958-1987. Radiation Effects Research Foundation, Hiroshima Japan, 1994).
  

B. Estimates of Casualties

If a meltdown that caused large scale releases of radioactivity from the reactor core or the waste pools occurred at Indian Point, there would be no vaporizing of humans. However, many would suffer from acute radiation poisoning (in the short term) and cancer (in the long term). Several estimates have been made to calculate just how many would be harmed. In 1982, the Sandia National Laboratories submitted estimates to Congress for each U.S. nuclear plant in the case of core meltdown. Those estimates for Indian Point are given in Table 2.

Table 2
Estimated Deaths/Cases of Acute Radiation Poisoning and Cancer Deaths
Near Indian Point, Following a Core Meltdown
Type of Effect
Indian Point 2
Indian Point 3
Deaths, Acute Radiation Poisoning
46,000
50,000
Cases, Acute Radiation Poisoning
141,000
167,000
Cancer Deaths
13,000
14,000
Note: Acute radiation poisoning cases and deaths calculated for a radius of 17.5 miles from the plant, cancer deaths calculated for radius 50 miles from the plant.
Source: Sandia National Laboratories, Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences (CRAC-2) for U.S. Nuclear Power Plants. Prepared for U.S. Congress, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. November 1, 1982. Published in New York Times and Washington Post the following day.

The Sandia figures are known as CRAC-2 (for Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences). CRAC-2 estimated casualties for Indian Point are one of the highest of any U.S. nuclear plant. Many believe the figures should be much larger, since the local population has grown since 1982 when the calculations were made, and people beyond a 17.5 mile radius from the plant will also suffer adverse health consequences.

More recently, the Union of Concerned Scientists prepared an estimate of casualties after a core meltdown from a terrorist attack. The 2004 report entitled Chernobyl on the Hudson estimated much higher casualties than did the 1982 Sandia effort. The Union’s Dr. Edwin Lyman calculated that as many as 44,000 near term deaths from acute radiation syndrome within 50 miles and 518,000 long term deaths from cancer within 60 miles could occur, depending on weather conditions. (Source: Lyman ES, Chernobyl on the Hudson?: The Health and Economic Impacts of a Terrorist Attack on the Indian Point Nuclear Plant, Washington DC: Union of Concerned Scientists, 2004. www.ucsusa.org).

Indian Point is more vulnerable to a meltdown from mechanical failure than most reactors because of its age, and more vulnerable to a terrorist attack because of its proximity to New York City.

Since the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center of September 11, 2001, much attention has been paid to the possibility of Indian Point as a potential target for attack.

The reactors are also more vulnerable to a meltdown due to its parts corroding as the plant ages and as the reactors operate much more of the time in recent years; the operating factor from 2001-2004 was 95%, compared to the national rate of 90% (Table 3). Until 1994, the operating factors for Indian Point 2 and 3 were 64.7% and 50.4%, respectively. (Source: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in The New York Times, October 2, 1995).

Table 3
Hours Indian Point Reactors Were Critical, 2001-2004
Year
Indian Point 2 Indian Point 3
2001
8513.98 8156.38
2002
8000.87 8731.05
2003
8664.86 7866.83
2004
7994.62 8784.00
Total
33,174.33 33,538.26
% Capacity
94.6% 95.6%
Source: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, www.nrc.gov.

The potential for a meltdown, while not highly likely, is a reality. A recent report by Greenpeace entitled “An American Chernobyl” identified 200 near-miss accidents at American reactors in the past two decades. Four of these were at Indian Point, all occurring since 2000 (Table 4).

Table 4
Near Miss Accidents At Indian Point Since 1986

Date

Reactor
Description

February 15, 2000

Indian Point 2
Steam generator tube rupture
July 19, 2002
Indian Point 2
Degraded control room fire barrier
August 14, 2003
Indian Point 2
Loss of offsite power due to NE blackout
August 14, 2003
Indian Point 3
Loss of offsite power due to NE blackout
Source: An American Chernobyl: Nuclear “Near Misses” at U.S. Reactors Since 1986. Washington DC: Greenpeace, 2006. www.greenpeace.org.

  

III. Radioactivity from Indian Point
A. Environmental Releases from Indian Point

All nuclear reactors must routinely emit radioactivity into the environment in order to operate. There are several forms of these emissions. One is accidental releases due to leaking equipment, which can include the cladding and welds of fuel rods in the reactor core, cracks and breaks in fuel that damages cladding, corroding pipes, and cracked steam generator tubes. These scenarios result in radioactivity released into the air and water. Radioactivity is also deliberately released into local water about every 18 months when reactors refuel.

Each utility is required by federal law to measure and report radioactive environmental emissions from nuclear reactors annually. From 1970-1993, the federal government produced a comparative listing of annual emissions for each U.S. reactor (it has since been discontinued). One measure of environmental emissions is known as airborne “Iodine-131 and Effluents” or chemicals with a half life of at least eight days (and thus, are more likely to enter the body through breathing and the food chain). The list of the U.S. nuclear plants with the highest releases is given in Table 5:

Table 5
U.S. Nuclear Plants with Highest Emissions
Of Airborne Radioactivity, 1970-1993

Plant
Location
Reactors
Emissions*
1. Dresden
Morris IL
3
97.22
2. Oyster Creek
Forked River NJ
1
77.05

3. Millstone
Waterford CT
2
32.80
4. Quad Cities
Cordova IL
2
26.95
5. Indian Point
Buchanan NY
3
17.50
6. Nine Mile Point
Scriba NY
2
14.67
7. Brunswick
Southport NC
2
14.50
8. Three Mile Island
Londonderry PA
2
14.43
9. Monticello
Monticello MN
1
12.48
10. Pilgrim
Plymouth MA
1
6.71
* Emissions expressed as curies of Iodine-131 and effluents
Source: Tichler J et al. Radioactive Materials Released from Nuclear Power Plants, annual reports. Upton NY: Brookhaven National Laboratory, NUREG/CR-2907.

The Indian Point total of 17.50 curies is the 5th highest of 72 U.S. plants. The total is greater than the 14.43 curies from the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania, most of which was reported after the 1979 accident. Most of the Indian Point total occurred in 1985 and 1986, with a total of 14.03 curies from Indian Point 2. Several years later, the totals were changed to 1.90 curies; an inquiry to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission attributed the change to a “clerical error.” While the original figures are used here, using revised figures would still rank Indian Point as the 12th highest in the nation.

More recent data on emissions is now posted on the Internet by the federal government. Data for all U.S. reactors are listed from 2001-2004, by quarter, and by type of emission. Unfortunately, no information for Indian Point 2 is given, and data for Indian Point 3 is missing for various quarters.

But examination of types of airborne and liquid radioactive emissions with data reported for each quarter from 2001-2004 from Indian Point 3 is helpful in understanding the large variations over time (Tables 6 and 7). For example:

  • Releases of fission gases from Indian Point 3 rose about six-fold from the fourth quarter 2001 to the first quarter 2002 (about 15-fold for Xenon-133, a type of fission gas), and about 100 times higher than a year earlier.
  • Second quarter 2004 releases of airborne fission gases were much higher than typical quarterly 2003 releases
  • The quarters with the highest liquid releases of fission and activation products were not necessarily those with the highest liquid releases of tritium

More analysis is needed to understand reason(s) for these releases. But it is clear that there are very large swings in emissions levels over time. Large increases often remain high for extended periods of time.

Table 6
Airborne Radioactivity Released from Indian Point 3
Selected Measures of Radioactivity, by Quarter, 2001-2004
Total Millicuries
Quarter
Xenon-133
Fission Gases
Tritium
1st Q 01
59
91
360
2nd Q 01
218
251
457
3rd Q 01
321
1040
1120
4th Q 01
378
1400
1430
1st Q 02
5580
8180
1310
2nd Q 02
1820
3790
1670
3rd Q 02
166
202
1540
4th Q 02
33
55
679
1st Q 03
141
181
495
2nd Q 03
190
229
828
3rd Q 03
371
525
951
4th Q 03
523
1590
830
1st Q 04
144
204
1420
2nd Q 04
1290
1450
1340
3rd Q 04
29
58
1140
4th Q 04
36
121
1570
One millicurie is 1/1000th of a curie. The physical half lives of Xenon-133 and Tritium are 5.24 days and 12.3 years, respectively.
Source: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. www.reirs.com/efflunt/EDB

 

Table 7
Liquid Radioactivity Released from Indian Point 3, in Millicuries
Selected Measures of Radioactivity, by Quarter, 2001-2004
Quarter
Fission and
Activation Products
Tritium
1st Q 01
27.0
251,000
2nd Q 01
51.4
170,000
3rd Q 01
36.4
22,900
4th Q 01
12.0
482,000
1st Q 02
4.5
31,900
2nd Q 02
2.5
19,600
3rd Q 02
7.6
51,400
4th Q 02
14.0
692,000
1st Q 03
3.9
667,000
2nd Q 03
27.3
61,800
3rd Q 03

7.5

187,000
4th Q 03
6.3
38,500
1st Q 04
3.1
28,800
2nd Q 04
3.0
71,800
3rd Q 04
4.7
44,900
4th Q 04
4.8
530,000
One millicurie is 1/1000th of a curie. The physical half life of Tritium is 12.3 years.
Source: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. www.reirs.com/effluent/EDB

 

B. Environmental Radioactivity Levels near Indian Point

All utilities are also required by federal law to make periodic measurements of radioactivity levels in the local area near reactors, and report them to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission annually. In addition, the New York State Department of Health makes measurements in air, water, soil, fish, and vegetation, and makes results available to the public.

Some of the measurements are for levels of specific chemicals, such as Strontium-90 and Iodine-131. But others cover entire categories of radioactive chemicals (which emit alpha particles, beta particles, or gamma rays). These categories are most meaningful when trying to estimate total radiation burden to the environment.

The state Health Department maintains a water monitoring site on the Hudson River at Verplanck, which is just one mile south of the Indian Point plant. It also measures radioactivity levels in water in Albany, on the roof of the Health Department building, as a “control”, meaning the site is far from any nuclear plant. Average weekly levels of all alpha and beta emitters have traditionally been about 10 to 11 times higher in Verplanck than in Albany (Table 8). It is virtually certain that this difference is due to the operations of Indian Point, as many of these alpha- and beta-emitting chemicals can only be produced in nuclear reactors.

Table 8
Average Gross Alpha and Gross Beta Levels in Water
From Weekly Measurements, 1982-2003
Hudson River (Verplanck) vs. Albany (Health Department)
Area
Period
Annual Average (measurements)


 
Gross Alpha
Gross Beta

Verplanck

1982-1994
21.74 (573)
24.41 (574)
Albany
1982-1994
1.85 (706)
1.99 (706)
Times Verplanck is above Albany
 
11.8
10.9
Verplanck
1995-2003
23.41 (416)
25.36 (416)
Albany
1995-2003
2.20 (228)
2.39 (228)
Times Verplanck is above Albany
 
10.6
10.6
All measurements are in picocuries of gross alpha/gross beta per liter of water.
Source: New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Radiation Protection. Environmental Radiation in New York State, annual volumes.

The Annual Radiological Environmental Operating Report for the Indian Point plant is now available on the NRC web site from 1999 to 2006. While each report lists a variety of radioactivity measurements near the plant, there are problems. There is no simple way to summarize radioactivity patterns near the plant. Measurements of some forms of radioactivity are taken infrequently (e.g. annually or quarterly). Levels of radioactivity may not always be detectable by Entergy, given the reliable detection limits of the methodologies employed. At these levels, measurement uncertainty is characteristically high, making it difficult to obtain reliable assessments.

One type of radioactivity that may be helpful in understanding local radioactivity burden is “gross beta in air”, or the total amount of radioactive chemicals that emit beta particles. Measurements are taken weekly; error margins are small; there are nine stations near Indian Point; and all measurements are detectable. Table 9 displays findings for 2006:

Table 9
Average Gross Beta in Air From Weekly Measurements, 2006
Nine Stations Near the Indian Point Plant
Indicator
Result
Average, all stations
13.02
Range of averages, nine stations
12.59 – 13.43
Lowest/highest weekly averages (6/13, 12/12)
3.67 – 25.00
First 23 weeks/Last 29 weeks
10.67 - 14.89 (+40%)
Lowest/highest period (4/25-6/13, 11/7-12/19)
8.07 - 23.76
All measurements are in picocuries of gross beta per cubic meter of air, multiplied by 1000. The error margin for each measurement is +/- .0001. A total of 466 measurements were taken in 2006.
Source: Annual Environmental Radiological Operating Report, available at www.nrc.gov.
The average of gross beta for all nine stations in 2006, covering 466 individual measurements is 13.02 picocuries per cubic meter of air (actually .001302 x 1000). Average readings are relatively consistent from station to station; the lowest is 12.59 and the highest is 13.43.

Perhaps the most noteworthy pattern observed in these data is the wide variation over time. The average for the last 29 weeks of the year was 40% greater than the first 23 weeks. The average during the late autumn (23.76 for the seven weeks November 7 to December 19) was nearly triple that of the late spring (8.07 for the eight weeks April 25 to June 13). These patterns are consistent among the nine stations, and cover hundreds of readings, suggesting they are due to changes in man-made radioactivity from Indian Point.
 

C. Radioactivity Levels in Bodies near Indian Point

The question of how much man-made radioactivity enters human bodies was first considered in the 1950s, when the U.S. government sponsored studies that measured bone and teeth samples for Strontium-90, one of the 100-plus chemicals found in nuclear weapon explosions and nuclear reactor operations. A landmark study of baby teeth in St. Louis found that the average Sr-90 level for children born in 1964 (just as atomic bomb testing was stopped) was about 50 times greater than for children born in 1950. Furthermore, Sr-90 studies found that average concentrations in bodies plunged by about half from 1964 to 1969, after large-scale weapons testing in the atmosphere was banned. Similar studies of Sr-90 in bone and teeth in Europe found similar patterns. (Sources: Rosenthal HR. Accumulation of environmental strontium-90 in teeth of children. In: Proceedings of the Ninth Annual Hanford Biology Symposium, Richland WA, May 5-8, 1969. Washington DC: U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, 1969. Health and Safety Laboratory, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Strontium-90 in Human Vertebrae. In: Radiation Data and Reports, monthly volumes, 1964-1969).

Government officials dropped their in-body radiation monitoring programs in 1970, 1971, and 1982. No studies measuring in-body levels near U.S. nuclear plants existed until 1996, when the independent research group Radiation and Public Health Project initiated an effort measuring Sr-90 in baby teeth, as did the earlier project in St. Louis. RPHP used a machine designed to measure low-dose radioactivity levels and selected the REMS radiochemistry lab of Canada to establish protocols and test teeth.

The lab calculated the ratio of Sr-90 to calcium, and RPHP converted it to a ratio at birth, using the Sr-90 half life of 28.7 years. Most Sr-90 in a baby tooth is taken up during the last six months of pregnancy and the first few months of life. A tooth from a person age 28.7 years with a current ratio of 4.30 would have an at-birth ratio of 8.60. Teeth were classified according to where the mother lived during pregnancy and the first year of life, not the current residence.

RPHP has tested nearly 5,000 baby teeth, and published five medical journal articles on results. A comprehensive analysis of the study found that average Sr-90 in baby teeth were 30-50% higher in counties closest to six U.S. nuclear plants, and that average levels rose about 50% from the late 1980s to the late 1990s (reversing a prior decline), as reactors aged and were in operation more frequently. Results were statistically significant, suggesting strongly that emissions from nuclear reactors were entering bodies of local humans. (Source: Mangano JJ et al. An unexpected rise in Strontium-90 in US deciduous teeth in the 1990s. The Science of the Total Environment 2003;317:37-51).

Over 500 teeth were collected and tested from the New York metropolitan area partly supported by a $25,000 grant from the Westchester County legislature. Over half were from the four counties closest to Indian Point – Westchester, Rockland, Orange, and Putnam. The average local Sr-90 level was the highest in the area, and the highest of near six U.S. nuclear plants. Average Sr-90 decreased with distance from the plant, i.e., New York City was lower than the local area, and Long Island was lower than New York City (Table 10).

Table 10
Average Concentration of Strontium-90 in Baby Teeth, At Birth
New York City Metropolitan Area
Region
Teeth
Average Sr-90
4 Counties Near Indian Point
279
3.78
New York City
161
3.10
Long Island
94
2.75
Average = picocuries of Sr-90 per gram of calcium at birth. Only births after 1979 included.
Source: Radiation and Public Health Project

Increases in average Sr-90 in baby teeth over the past decade were also highest near Indian Point. Children born in the late 1990s in the four-county area had a 38% greater average Sr-90 level than those born in the late 1980s, while the changes in New York City and Long Island were +36% and -11%, respectively (Table 11).

Table 11
Change in Average Concentration of Strontium-90 in Baby Teeth, At Birth
New York City Metropolitan Area, 1986-89 to 1994-97
Area
Average Sr-90 (no. teeth)
% Change
 
b. 1986-89
b. 1994-97
 
4 Counties Near Indian Point
3.31 (55)
4.55 (77)
+38%
New York City
2.67 (51)
3.62 (32)
+36%
Long Island
3.33 (20)
2.98 (20)
- 11%
Average = picocuries of Sr-90 per gram of calcium at birth.
Source: Radiation and Public Health Project

While the tooth study provided some unique and important data, it is difficult to demonstrate exactly how the Sr-90 entered children’s bodies. (Some is taken from the mother’s bone stores, some is through the mother’s diet during pregnancy, and some through the baby’s diet during infancy). Sr-90 enters bodies through milk, water, vegetation, and breathing. The study limits do not, however, negate the importance of consistent and significant findings of high and rising levels of radioactivity closest to Indian Point.

The preceding data documenting high emissions from Indian Point, high levels in the local environment, and high/rising levels in local bodies raise questions about whether the health of local residents have been harmed.
   

IV. Potential Health Risks from Indian Point
A. Prior Studies

Health risks from Indian Point have been virtually unstudied. The only national study of cancer rates near U.S. nuclear plants was conducted in the late 1980s by the National Cancer Institute. The study examined changes in cancer death rates before and after the startup of 62 plants, including Indian Point.

Because Indian Point 1 began operating in 1962, the NCI study compared death rates in Westchester and Rockland Counties with the U.S. rate for the periods 1950-1962 and 1963-1984. Aggregate results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in March 1991. Table 12 provides results for the two counties.

Table 12
Change in Cancer Mortality Rates, By Type of Cancer
Westchester/Rockland Counties vs. U.S., 1950-1962 to 1963-1984
Increases (6)
No Change (2)
Decreases (6)
Bone and Joint
Brain
Bladder
Childhood (age 0-19)
Breast
Colon and Rectum
Hodgkin’s Disease
 
Leukemia
Other Lymphoma
 
Liver
Stomach
 
Lung, Bronchus, Trachea
Thyroid
 
Multiple Myeloma
Source: Jablon S. et al. Cancer Mortality in Populations Living Near U.S. Nuclear Facilities. National Cancer Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIH Pub. No. 90-874. Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990.

Results of the NCI study are mixed, as rates of six types of cancer increased and six types decreased in Westchester and Rockland Counties. However, no data are examined after 1984, which makes the study outdated. In addition, the fact that only cancer deaths, not cancer cases, were examined suggests it did not comprehensively address cancer risk.

In 2003, a medical journal articles examined childhood cancer incidence (cases) near 14 nuclear power plants in the eastern U.S., covering the period 1988-1997, during which nearly 4000 cases were diagnosed. The article found that cancer rates in children age 0-9 exceeded the national rate in all 14 areas near nuclear plants. One of the 14 areas was Indian Point (Westchester and Rockland Counties), which exceeded the U.S. by 17.4%. The excess was of borderline statistical significance (p<.08, when p<.05 is considered significant). The article also examined mortality for children age 0-9 during this period. The Westchester/Rockland death rate was 1.4% above the U.S., not a significant excess.

Table 13
Childhood Cancer Incidence and Mortality Rates
Westchester/Rockland Counties vs. U.S., 1988-1997
County
Rate/100,000
Cases/Deaths
% +/- U.S.
Incidence
Westchester
18.39 (190)
+18.6
Rockland
17.63 ( 63)
+13.7
TOTAL
18.20 (253)
+17.4
Mortality
Westchester
3.38 (39)
- 3.2
Rockland
4.01 (16)
+14.8
TOTAL
3.55 (55)
+ 1.4
Sources: Mangano JJ et al. Elevated childhood cancer incidence proximate to U.S. nuclear power plants. Archives of Environmental Health 2003;58(2):74-83.

These studies, while providing helpful data, fall far short of addressing any potential connection between Indian Point emissions and local risk of cancer. Much more detailed and updated analyses are needed, especially as federal regulators examine the application to extend the licenses of the Indian Point 2 and 3 reactors for an additional 20 years.
   

B. Defining Local Population

While there is no uniform definition of what is meant by the “local” area around Indian Point, any study should include some or all of the four counties that flank the plant. Westchester County, the site of the site, lies to the east and southeast, while Rockland County lies to the west and southwest. These two counties were recognized by the National Cancer Institute as the “local” counties near Indian Point. In addition, Putnam County (just to the northeast) and Orange County (just to the northwest) can be considered, although area totals will largely reflect Westchester and Rockland counties, which are much more populated. Most residents of these counties live within 20 miles of Indian Point.

Several demographic characteristics that can affect health risk in counties closest to Indian Point are given in Table 14.

Table 14
Selected Demographic Characteristics
Counties Closest to Indian Point vs. the U.S. and NY State
Characteristic
U.S.
NYS
4 Cos
West.
Rock.
Put.
Orange

2006 population

299.4m
19.3m
1721315
949355
294965
100603
376392
1950 population
150.4m
14.9m
887654
625816
89276
20307
152255
2005 % black
12.8
17.4
12.6
14.9
11.9
2.6
10.2
2005 % Hispanic/Latino
14.4
16.1
15.8
18.0
12.2
9.2
14.9
2000 % Foreign born
11.1
20.4
17.9
22.2
19.1
8.8
8.4
2000 % English not spoken*
17.9
28.0
25.5
28.4
29.9
13.2
18.2
2000 % >25 HS grad
80.4
79.1
83.9
83.6
85.3
90.2
81.8
2000 % >25 College grad
24.4
27.4
35.9
40.9
37.5
33.9
22.5
2004 % below poverty
12.7
14.5
9.0
8.9
9.5
4.5
10.2
2000 % Homeownership
66.2
53.0
64.9
60.1
71.7
82.2
67.0
* Language other than English spoken at home, age 5+
Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, www.census.gov, your gateway to the 2000 census, state and county quick facts.

The current population of the four-county area is over 1.7 million, which has nearly doubled in the past half century. Compared to the U.S. and New York State, the local educational level is higher, while the percentage of minorities and persons living in poverty are lower. Thus, there are no apparent characteristics in the area suggesting elevated disease risk. The presence of world-class medical care in New York City is another factor suggesting local disease rates should not exceed state and national levels.
  

C. Cancer Incidence
1. All Cancers Combined

The New York State Department of Health has made cancer incidence data available on the Internet for small areas, including counties and zip codes. The most recent data covers the period 2000-2004.

Table 15 displays cancer incidence rates for the four counties, compared to the U.S. and New York State rates, diagnosed during 2000-2004, for all cancers combined.

Table 15
Incidence, All Cancers Combined
Four Counties Near Indian Point vs. U.S. and NY State, 2000-2004
County
Rate/100,000
% Local +/-
Significance*
Excess Cases
   
US
NYS
vs. US
vs. NYS
vs. US
vs. NYS
Males
Westchester
577.6 (12608)
+ 3.9
+ 1.1
<.003*
< .37
492
139
Rockland
613.8 ( 3991)
+10.4
+ 7.5
<.001*
<.002*
415
299
Putnam
619.0 ( 1244)
+11.4
+ 8.4
<. .01*
< .05*
142
105
Orange
590.1 ( 4067)
+ 6.2
+ 3.3
< .01*
< .15
252
134
4 COS.
21910
       
1301
677
Females
Westchester
442.4 (12822)
+ 7.6
+ 3.5
<.001*
<.006*
975
449
Rockland
459.7 ( 3750)
+11.8
+ 7.6
<.001*
<.002*
443
285
Putnam
501.5 ( 1255)
+21.9
+17.3
<.001*
<.001
* 275
217
Orange
474.4 ( 4166)
+15.3
+11.1
<.001*
<.001*
637
462
4 COS.
21993
       
2330
1413
TOTAL ALL
43903
       
3631
2090
Excess cases derived by multiplying percent over US/NYS by number of cases.
* Excess significant if p <.05. Rates Adjusted to 2000 U.S. standard population.
NYS rates for males/females = 571.1, 427.4. U.S. rates (17 states and cities) = 555.8, 411.3.
Sources: New York State Department of Health. www.nyhealth.gov/statistics/cancer/registry. Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results, www.seer.cancer.gov.

The cancer incidence rate in each county exceeds the U.S. and state rates, for both genders (greater for females). In nearly all cases, the excess was statistically significant. If the rate for each county had been equal to the national and state rates, 3631 and 2090 fewer cancer cases, respectively, would have been diagnosed during 2000-2004.

2. Childhood Cancers

Children are especially vulnerable to the toxic properties of radiation exposure. Thus, childhood cancer is likely the most-studied disease near nuclear plants.

The New York State Cancer Registry also makes available county-specific cancer incidence data for children, defined as those diagnosed before age 20. Table 16 lists childhood cancer incidence for each of the 22 most populated counties in New York State, which accounts for 86% of the state’s population, for 2000-2004. Each county has at least 140,000 residents.

Table 16
Cancer Incidence, Children Age 0-19
Largest Counties in New York State, 2000-2004
(Ordered by Highest Rate First)
County
Rate/100,000 Pop (No. cases)
1. Rockland
21.6 (94)
 
2. Niagara
21.1 ( 60)
 
3. Westchester
20.3 (254)
 
3. Nassau
20.3 (357)
 
5. Suffolk
20.0 (401)
4 Local Counties 20.0 (471)
6. Manhattan
19.8 (300)
 
7. Schenectady
18.5 ( 36)
Putnam 19.4 (25)
8. Orange
18.0 (98)
 
9. Rensselaer
17.9 ( 36)
 
10. Oneida
17.8 ( 53)
NY State 17.8
11. Staten Island
17.7 ( 88)
 
12. Brooklyn
17.2 (620)
 
13. Erie
17.0 (209)
 
14. Ulster
16.9 ( 38)
 
15. Queens
16.5 (456)
 
16. Dutchess
16.5 ( 63)
 
17. Monroe
16.4 (168)
U.S. 16.4
18. Broome
15.0 ( 40)
 
19. Saratoga
14.8 ( 40)
 
20. Bronx
14.7 (322)
 
21. Albany
14.2 ( 54)
 
22. Onandaga
13.0 ( 83)
 
(Each of the 22 counties has over 140,000 residents = 86% of 2000 NY State population)
Source: NY State Department of Health, www.nyhealth.gov/statistics/cancer/registry

The table reveals that childhood cancer incidence in each of the four counties near Indian Point exceeds state and national rates. Rockland, Westchester, and Orange Counties have the 1st, 3rd, and 8th highest rates, respectively, of the 22 largest counties in the state (the number of cases in each of the other counties are likely to be too small to be significant). If Putnam County were large enough, it would have the 7th highest rate.

A total of 471 children in the four counties were diagnosed with cancer from 2000-2004. The rate of 20.0 cases per 100,000 children exceeds the state and nation by 12% and 22%, respectively. The excesses is of borderline significance (p<.08) compared to the state, and significantly above the U.S. (p<.003).

3. Thyroid Cancer

The specific type of cancer most strongly linked with radiation exposure is cancer of the thyroid gland. Radioactive iodine found only in atomic bomb fallout and nuclear reactor emissions seeks out the thyroid when it enters the body, and destroys and injures healthy cells.

Aside from exposure to ionizing radiation, experts have yet to conclusively identify risk factors for thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is the fastest-rising type of malignancy in the U.S.; the incidence rate has more than doubled since 1980, for young, middle age, and elderly adults (the disease is very rare in children). This trend, plus the sensitivity of the thyroid gland to radiation, makes it logical to examine thyroid cancer incidence near the Indian Point plant. Tables 17 and 18 show 2000-2004 thyroid cancer incidence rates for the most populated counties in New York State, for males and females.

Table 17
Thyroid Cancer Incidence, Males, All Ages
Largest Counties in New York State, 2000-2004
County
Rate/100,000 Pop (No. cases)
1. Rockland
10.0 (70)
 
2. Suffolk
7.1 (254)
Putnam 8.6 (20)
3. Orange
6.7 (56)
4 Local Counties 7.4
4. Staten Island
6.4 ( 71)
 
5. Westchester
6.1 (141)
 
6. Nassau
6.0 (204)
 
7. Dutchess
5.9 ( 44)
 
8. Manhattan
5.8 (224)
 
9. Onandaga
5.5 ( 60)
 
10. Oneida
5.4 ( 33)
 
10. Saratoga
5.4 ( 28)
 
12. Niagara
5.0 ( 28)
NYS 5.0
13. Monroe
4.6 ( 81)
 
14. Erie
4.3 (102)
U.S. 4.3
15. Broome
4.1 ( 21)
 
15. Queens
4.1 (215)
 
15. Brooklyn
4.1 (217)
 
15. Schenectady
4.1 ( 15)
 
19. Albany
3.9 ( 28)
 
20. Bronx
3.7 ( 94)
 
21. Ulster
3.6 ( 17)
 
22. Rensselaer
2.6 ( 10)
 
(Each of 22 counties has over 140,000 residents = 86% of 2000 NY State population).
Rates adjusted to 2000 U.S. standard population
Source: NY State Department of Health, www.nyhealth.gov/statistics/cancer/registry

 

Table 18
Thyroid Cancer Incidence, Females, All Ages
Largest Counties in New York State, 2000-2004
County
Rate/100,000 Pop (No. cases)
1. Orange
25.9 (229)
 
2. Rockland
25.3 (192)
4 Local Counties 21.3
3. Oneida
19.4 (116)
Putnam 20.6 (54)
4. Saratoga
18.4 (102)
 
5. Westchester
17.2 (440)
 
6. Schenectady
17.1 ( 66)
 
7. Suffolk
16.9 (657)
 
8. Nassau
16.8 (516)
 
9. Niagara
16.7 ( 96)
 
10. Dutchess
15.8 (116)
 
11. Broome
15.6 ( 81)
 
12. Onandaga
15.1 (181)
 
13. Staten Island
15.0 (186)
 
14. Erie
14.5 (368)
 
15. Albany
13.9 (109)
NYS 13.8
16. Manhattan
12.8 (590)
 
17. Queens
12.7 (778)
 
18. Rensselaer
12.0 ( 49)
U.S. 12.5
19. Monroe
11.8 (228)
 
20. Ulster
11.3 ( 54)
 
21. Brooklyn
11.1 (737)
 
22. Bronx
9.7 (338)
 
(Each of 22 counties has over 140,000 residents = 86% of 2000 NY State population)
Rates adjusted to 2000 U.S. standard population
Source: NY State Department of Health,
www.nyhealth.gov/statistics/cancer/registry

The data show dramatically elevated rates of thyroid cancer incidence in the counties closest to Indian Point. The 4 county rate is 72% and 70% higher than the U.S. for males and females (7.4 vs. 4.3 and 21.3 vs. 12.5). While the Health Department web site does not combine rates for both genders, it appears that Rockland and Orange Counties have the highest rates of any large county in the state, followed closely by Westchester and Putnam Counties. The rate in Rockland County is approximately double that of the U.S. While thyroid cancer is not among the most common types of cancer, the total of 1202 cases diagnosed in the region from 2000-2004 makes the excess statistically significant, and worthy of further analysis.

4. Breast Cancer

Another type of cancer known to sensitive to radiation exposure is breast cancer. In 1994, a report on over 200,000 survivors of the atomic bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki documented elevated rates of many types of cancer in those who received highest doses. Breast cancer in females had the highest excess (20%) of any type of cancer, except for thyroid cancer (34%). (Source: Thompson DE et al. Cancer Incidence in Atomic Bomb Survivors. Part II: Solid Tumore, 1958-1987. Radiation Effects Research Foundation, Hiroshima Japan, 1994).

The incidence of breast cancer in the Indian Point area during the most recent five years, as posted on the state Health Department web site, is given in Table 19:

Table 19
Cancer Incidence, Female Breast
Four Counties Nearest Indian Point vs. U.S. and NY State
County
Rate/100,000
% Local is +/-
Excess Cases
 
(Cases)
US
NYS
vs US
vs NYS
2000-2004
Westchester
136.3 (3870)
+ 6.7
+ 7.8
259
302
Rockland
133.7 (1094)
+ 4.6
+ 5.8
50
63
Putnam
141.5 ( 373)
+10.7
+11.9
38
44
Orange
132.5 (1165)
+ 3.7
+ 4.8
43
56
TOTAL
135.3 (6502)
+ 5.9
+ 7.0
390
465
Four Counties
Period
         
1976-1979
102.9 (3144)
 
+1.9
 
59
1980-1984
108.3 (4264)
 
+2.6
 
109
1985-1989
120.0 (4955)
 
+2.5
 
123
1990-1994
128.2 (5490)
 
+2.7
 
150
1995-1999
139.4 (6238)
 
+3.9
 
242
2000-2004
135.3 (6502)
 
+7.0
 
465
Excess cases derived by multiplying percent over US/NYS by number of cases.
Rates Adjusted to 2000 U.S. standard population.
NYS rate = 126.4. U.S. rate (17 states and cities) = 127.8
Sources: New York State Department of Health. www.nyhealth.gov/statistics/cancer/registry.
Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results, www.seer.cancer.gov.

Breast cancer incidence was greater than the state and nation for each county. The four-county excess was 7.0% and 5.9%, respectively. Of the total of 6502 breast cancer cases diagnosed during the period, 390 to 465 are in excess of the national and state rates, respectively. The only excesses that are statistically significant are those for Westchester and the four-county total.

In addition, the gap between the four-county and state rates of breast cancer incidence has grown in the past three decades. The excess of 1.9% in the late 1970s has increased to 7.0% in the early 2000s. The number of breast cancer cases diagnosed annually has risen from about 800 to 1300 during this time.

5. Most Common Cancers, by Zip Code.

The state Health Department has also made available cancer incidence data by each zip code in New York State, for the five year period 1999-2003. The data only cover the four most common types of cancer: (female) breast, colorectal, lung and bronchus, and (male) prostate. These account for about 55% of all newly-diagnosed cancer cases in the U.S. Actual cases are compared with the number expected if the rate in the zip code equaled the state rate for each age group.

Table 20 displays the number of cancer cases for the six zip code areas closest to Indian Point, all within about five miles of the plant, three in Rockland County and three in Westchester County (data for all zip codes in the two counties are given as Appendix 1).

Table 20
Cancer Incidence, Breast/Colorectal/Lung/Prostate Cancers
Six Zip Code Areas Closest to Indian Point vs. Other Westchester/Rockland
1999-2003
Town/Zip Code
Cancer Cases
% Actual
 
Actual
Expected
+/-Expected

Westchester

       
Buchanan (10511)
34
31.3
+ 8.6%
 
Peekskill (10566, 10517)
333
283.5
+17.5%
 
Montrose (10548,10596)
73
67.4
+ 8.3%
 
3 Westchester Towns
440
382.2
+15.1%
p<.06
Rockland
       
Stony Point (10980, 10986)
254
202.8
+25.2%
 
Haverstraw (10927)
133
112.5
+18.2%
 
W. Haverstraw (10993)
92
67.1
+37.1%
 
3 Rockland Towns
479
382.4
+25.3%
p<.002
         
Total 6 Towns
919
764.6
+20.2%
p<.0002
Other Westchester/Rockland
17520
17297.2
+ 1.3%
 
Colorectal
199
164.7
+20.8%
p<.06
Female Breast
214
205.0
+ 4.4%
 
Lung/Bronchus
245
187.4
+30.7%
p<.004
Male Prostate
261
207.5
+25.8%
p<.01
Source: New York State Department of Health. www.nyhealth.gov/statistics/cancer/registry.

There were 919 cases of the four cancer types diagnosed in the towns closest to Indian Point from 1999-2003. Cancer incidence in the six towns exceeded the state rate by 20.2%, while the excess for the rest of the two counties was just 1.3%. The excess in the six towns is highly significant at p<.0002. Local rates were significantly higher than expected for each of the four types of cancer except for breast cancer.
  

D. Cancer Mortality
1. All Cancers Combined

Data for all U.S. deaths is available for the years 1979 to 2004 on the web site of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The site permits analysis by age, race, sex, and cause of death, and identifies state and county of residence. It also allows death rates for clusters of counties or states to be analyzed.

Table 21 displays the death rate for all cancers combined for the four-county area near Indian Point, compared to the state and nation, for the 26 year period in the data base.

Table 21
Mortality, All Cancers Combined
Four Counties Nearest Indian Point vs. U.S. and NY State, 1979-2004
County
Rate/100,000
% Local is +/-
Excess Deaths
 
(Deaths)
US
NYS
vs US
vs NYS

Westchester

205.5 (51696)
- 1.9
- 2.4
- 982
- 1241

Rockland

209.1 (12970)
- 0.2
- 0.7
- 26
- 91
Putnam
227.6 ( 4101)
+ 8.6
+ 8.1
353
332
Orange
231.3 (15640)
+10.4
+ 9.9
1626
1548
TOTAL
211.3 (84407)
+ 0.9
+ 0.4
971
548
Excess cases derived by multiplying percent over US/NYS by number of cases.
Rates Adjusted to 2000 U.S. standard population. NYS rate = 210.5. U.S. rate = 209.5
Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://wonder.cdc.gov, underlying cause of death. Uses ICD-9 codes 140.0-239.9 (1979-1998) and ICD-10 codes C00-D48.9 (1999-2004).

The four-county area has virtually the same cancer death rate as the state and nation (+0.4% and +0.9%, respectively). The total excess deaths (548 and 971) are a small proportion of the total number of 84,407 cancer deaths in this period. Putnam and Orange Counties have higher rates, while Westchester and Rockland Counties have lower rates. The differences are all statistically significant, except for Rockland County.

2. Cancer vs. Non-Cancer Mortality

While the local cancer mortality rate near Indian Point is only slightly higher than the state and national rates, this pattern takes on different meaning after analyzing local death rates for other causes. Table 21 shows the local mortality rates for cancers and all other causes combined, for each age group.

For all but the elderly, the local rate of all non-cancer deaths was 21% to 26% below the U.S. standard, a large variation from the slight elevation in cancer deaths. If the local cancer mortality rate had been below the U.S. like it was for other causes, a total of 8,799 fewer cancer deaths would have occurred from 1979-2004 in the four counties.

Table 22
Mortality, Cancer vs. All Other Causes
Four Counties Nearest Indian Point vs. U.S. by Age, 1979-2004
Age
Deaths
% +/- US
Excess
 
Cancer
Other
Cancer
Other
Cancer Deaths
0-24
614
9157
+ 2.6
-26.2
177
25-44
3343
13708
+ 2.4
-21.3
826
45-64
22804
34714
- 4.8
-22.3
3991
65+
57644
192922
+ 3.6
- 3.0
3805
TOTAL
       
8799
Excess cancer deaths derived by multiplying percent over US by number of deaths.
Rates Adjusted to 2000 U.S. standard population.
Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://wonder.cdc.gov, underlying cause of death. Uses ICD-9 codes 140.0-239.9 (1979-1998) and ICD-10 codes C00-D48.9 (1999-2004).

3. Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is one of the most successfully treated types of cancer, and thus the mortality rate for this disease is very low. In the period 1979-2004, a total of 241 residents of the four local counties died of thyroid cancer. The death rate of 0.607 per 100,000 was 32.6% and 13.9% greater than the U.S. and New York State, respectively. The difference with the U.S. is statistically significant at p<.01, while the difference with New York State is not significant.

4. Correlation of Radioactivity from Indian Point with Cancer

To start examining a any correlation between radioactive emissions from Indian Point and cancer risk, RPHP compared trends in Strontium-90 in local baby teeth with trends in childhood cancer incidence age 0-9. Figure 1 includes two line graphs over a 14 year period, one each for the local trend in Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester Counties. The childhood cancer line represents periods four years after the Sr-90 line, to test the principle that childhood cancer occurs several years after exposure to the fetus. Dr. Alice Stewart first observed this phenomenon in the late 1950s when she demonstrated pelvic X-rays to the fetus resulted in nearly a doubling in the cancer death rate before the child reached age ten.

When the Sr-90 level rises, cancer incidence in children under age ten also rises. Conversely, declines in Sr-90 are followed by declines in cancer incidence. The correlation falls short of statistical significance; but similar and significant findings near the Oyster Creek and Brookhaven nuclear plants give the results credibility, and suggest that more detailed examination is merited. Source: Mangano JJ. A Short Latency between Radiation Exposure from Nuclear Plants and Cancer in Young Children. International Journal of Health Services 2006;36(1):113-35.
  

V. Studies of improved local health after reactor shutdown
A. Precedent – Atomic Bomb Test Halt

If Indian Point closes by the end of its current license in 2015, no additional radioactivity will be produced or released from the reactor core (the slow-decaying forms of radioactive waste will remain). Closing the reactor will reduce levels of these products in the environment and body.

There is a precedent for such reductions. When above ground atomic bomb tests ceased after the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963, chemicals that decay quickly (such as Iodine-131, with a half life of eight days) virtually disappeared. Chemicals with a slower decay rate also dropped; Strontium-90 fell 75% in milk and 50% in bones from 1964-1970, according to studies conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service. (Source: Health and Safety Laboratory, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Strontium-90 in Human Vertebrae. In: Radiation Data and Reports, monthly volumes, 1964-1969).

Reduced environmental radioactivity raises the question of whether disease rates would also decline, especially among the more susceptible infant and children. Again, there may be precedent for such a change. The incidence of cancer age 0-4 in Connecticut, the only state which maintained a cancer registry in the 1960s, rose as large-scale bomb testing continued; from 1959 to 1962, new cases increased steadily from 41 to 60. But after testing ended, the number of cases plunged, from 60 to 30 between 1962 and 1968 (Table 23). Cancer incidence to young children can be seen as one of the most sensitive indicators of harm from radiation exposure, as these cancers often represent insults to the highly radiosensitive fetus.

Table 23
Cancer Cases Diagnosed in Children Age 0-4
Connecticut, Each Year from 1959-1968
During Bomb Testing
After Bomb Testing
Year
Cases
Year
Cases
1959
41
1964
53
1960
47
1965
38
1961
46
1966
43
1962
60
1967
43
1963
58
1968
30
Source: National Cancer Institute, Forty-five Years of Cancer Incidence in Connecticut: 1935-79. NIH Publication No. 86-2652. Bethesda MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1986.

  

B. Precedent – Nuclear Reactor Closing

Much of the radioactivity in the core of a nuclear reactor consists of chemicals that decay relatively quickly. Thus, reactor shutdown would mean a substantial decrease in routine emissions and in emissions from a core meltdown, just days after closing. A recent report calculated that a core meltdown just 20 days after shutdown of a fully operational reactor would reduce cancer deaths within 50 miles by 50% and reduce acute fatalities by 81%. Using the methodology from the Sandia National Laboratories 1982 study, the report estimated that a meltdown at Indian Point 20 days after the reactor closed would reduce cancer deaths within 50 miles from 53,960 to 26,870 and acute fatalities within 10 miles from 867 to 166. Source: Lyman ES. The Impact of Nuclear Plant Shutdown on Severe Accident Consequences. Washington DC: Nuclear Control Institute, February 12, 2002.

Like atomic bomb test cessation, there may be a precedent for cancer reductions after nuclear reactors close and radioactive releases end. A 2002 journal article by the Radiation and Public Health Project examines reactors that closed from 1987-1998 that were at least 70 miles from any other nuclear plant. The article compared cancer incidence in children under age five in the periods prior to and after closing. For downwind areas near six closed reactors, the rate fell each time (total of -24.8%), even though there was a slight increase in the U.S. childhood cancer during this period (Table 24).

Table 24
Change in Cancer Incidence Rates, Age 0-4
Counties Downwind and <40 Miles of Closed Reactors
Before and After Reactor Closing
Reactor
Year Closed
Counties Downwind and <40 Miles

LaCrosse

1987
LaCrosse, Vernon WI
Rancho Seco
1989
Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento CA
Fort St. Vrain
1989
Larimer, Weld CO
Big Rock Point
1997
Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet, Otsego MI
Maine Yankee
1997
Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln ME
Zion
1998
Lake IL; Kenosha, Racine WI
 
Reactor
Before
After
Cases/100,000 (No.)
% Change
 
Close
Close
Before
After
 

LaCrosse

’86-87
’88-94
40.0 ( 7)
24.6 ( 15)
-38.5%
Rancho Seco
’88-89
’90-96
24.0 (50)
17.6 (153)
-26.9%
Fort St. Vrain
’88-89
’90-96
20.3 (10)
18.0 ( 32)
-11.7%
Big Rock Pt.
’96-97
’98-00
45.0 ( 7)
21.1 ( 5)
-53.1%
Me. Yankee
’96-97
‘98-01
38.1 ( 8)
27.2 ( 11)
-28.5%
Zion
’97-98
’99-00
21.2 (32)
19.7 ( 30)
- 7.0%
TOTAL
   
24.7 (114)
18.5 (246)
-24.8%
U.S. ANNUAL AVERAGE CHANGE, 1986-1998
+ 0.3%
Sources: State cancer registries, in Mangano JJ et al. Infant Death and Childhood Cancer Reductions after Nuclear Plant Closings in the United States. Archives of Environmental Health 2002;57(10):23-32.

Cancer reductions for people of all ages have also occurred near closed nuclear reactors. One of the largest U.S. reactors that has closed permanently is Rancho Seco, in Sacramento County CA, which closed on June 6, 1989. The four California counties within 40 miles downwind (east) of Rancho Seco have a population of 1.9 million, roughly equal to the four counties surrounding Indian Point. This part of California also has approximately the same percentage of minorities, foreign born residents, educational levels, and poverty levels as does the U.S.

In the 1980s, while Rancho Seco was operating, the local cancer death rate was higher than the U.S. But in the 1990s and 2000s, after shutdown, levels abruptly moved below the U.S. The difference between the actual (lower) cancer death rates and an expected continuation of previous rates equals 3225 fewer local cancer deaths from 1990-2003 (Table 25).

Table 25
Reduction in Cancer Deaths, All Ages
Counties East and Under 40 Miles of Rancho Seco (Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento)
Before and After Reactor Closing, June 1989
Period
Cancer
Local
U.S.
% Local +/- US
Expected
Reduced
 
Deaths
Rate
Rate
Actual
Expected
Deaths
Deaths

Before Shutdown

             

1979-83

9212
215.6
210.3
+2.52%
----
----
----
1984-89
13609
222.7
215.0
+3.56%
----
----
----
After Shutdown
             

1990-98

24138
204.9
213.1
- 3.86%
+4.60%
26180
2042
1999-03
15968
197.1
200.6
- 1.77%
+5.64%
17151
1183
POST-SHUTDOWN
             
TOTAL
40106
       
43331
3225
 
Note: If the increase of local cancer death rate excess from 2.52% (1979-83) to 3.56% (1984-89) had continued, it would have reached 4.60% in 1990-98, 5.64% in 1999-03.
Expected deaths for 1990-98 = 24138 * (1 +(.046 + .0386)) =
26180
 
Expected deaths for 1999-03 = 15968 * (1 +(.0564 + .0177)) =
17151
 
Reduced deaths for 1990-98 = 26180 – 24138 =
 
2042
Reduced deaths for 1999-03 = 17151 – 15968 =
 
1183
Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://wonder.cdc.gov, underlying cause of death. Uses ICD-9 cancer codes 140.0-239.9 (1979-1998) and ICD-10 cancer codes C00-D48.9 (1999-2003). All rates adjusted to 2000 U.S. standard population. California counties include Amador, El Dorado, Placer, and Sacramento.

Reductions in cancer after reactor closing may reflect various contributing factors other than reduced radioactivity. However, no other factors in the Rancho Seco area accounting for this significant trend are apparent.
  

C. Potential Cancer Reduction After Indian Point Closing.

To the extent, if any, that elevated local rates of cancer are caused by Indian Point’s radioactive releases, closing the reactors could result in a decrease in cancer incidence and mortality. If cancer death rates in the four counties within 20 miles of Indian Point declined at a similar rate as in the four counties near the closed Rancho Seco reactor, the reduction in cancer deaths from 2016 to 2035 would be 5,203 (Table 26).

Table 26
Reduction in Cancer Deaths, All Ages
Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester Counties
If Similar Patterns Near Rancho Seco Were Duplicated
Estimate for 20 Year Period 2016-2035

Assumptions:

1. Change in local and U.S. cancer death rates is -1%/year
2. Change in local population is +1%/year
3. Decline in local rate vs. U.S. is -8.02%, based on
  - Rancho Seco went from an expected +4.60% to an actual -3.86% in 1990-98 (-8.46%)
  - Rancho Seco went from an expected +5.64% to an actual -1.77% in 1999-03 (-7.41%)
  - Weighted average difference in actual vs. expected cancer death rates = 8.02%

Calculations:

 
Actual cancer deaths in 10 year period 1995-04
32,438
Expected cancer deaths in 20 year period 2016-35 (32,110 x 2)
64,876
Reduction in deaths (expected deaths x reduction (64,220 x .0802)
5,203

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://wonder.cdc.gov, underlying cause of death. Uses ICD-9 cancer codes 140.0-239.9 (1995-1998) and ICD-10 cancer codes C00-D48.9 (1999-2004).

  

VI. Summary and Policy Implications

The preceding report covers two subjects: (potential and actual) radioactive contamination from the Indian Point reactors in the local environment, and potential health risks to local residents. Several analyses estimate that a large-scale release of radioactivity, either from mechanical failure or act of sabotage, would harm thousands, either through acute radiation poisoning or cancer.

In addition, environmental contamination from Indian Point may have already caused harm. Evidence of contamination includes reported environmental emissions from the reactors; reported levels of radioactivity in the environment; and Strontium-90 detected in local baby teeth. Official data from state and federal regulators of nuclear plants were used for emissions and environmental levels, while a novel study by the Radiation and Public Health Project was used for data on baby teeth. RPHP published five medical journal articles on the study.

The Indian Point reactors historically have emitted greater amounts of radioactivity into the environment than most U.S. plants. These emissions appear to be unpredictable, as wide variations in environmental radioactivity levels near Indian Point over time suggest. The baby tooth study, while it cannot exactly track all pathways of Sr-90 into local bodies, does document relatively high (compared to other areas) and rising levels of the isotope in counties closest to Indian Point.

Cancer data were obtained from the New York State Cancer Registry (for cancer incidence from 2000-2004) and from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (for cancer mortality from 1979-2004). The local area near Indian Point was defined as the counties within 20 miles (Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester). The results show that:

  • The elevated local incidence rate, compared to the state and nation, suggests between 2090 and 3631 “excess” cancer cases occurred locally from 2000-2004.
  • Childhood cancer incidence in the four local counties is among the highest in New York State, and well above the national rate.
  • Thyroid cancer incidence in the four local counties is among the highest in New York State. The level in Rockland County is approximately double the U.S. rate.
  • The local breast cancer incidence rate exceeds the state and nation, and the excess is growing over time.
  • Incidence of the four most common types of cancer in the six towns within five miles of Indian Point is 20% greater than the rest of Rockland and Westchester Counties.
  • The local mortality rate is well below the U.S. for all causes (for each age group) except for cancer, which is slightly higher.
  • There is a statistical link between average levels of Strontium-90 in local baby teeth and local childhood cancer rates.

It is important to understand that this report presents data that suggest – but not yet prove – that Indian Point emissions are causing cancer. Many factors contribute to cancer risk, and radiation exposure is just one. However, the data raise questions about a potential link, on a topic has been virtually ignored in the 45 years that Indian Point has operated. The costs to society of high cancer rates are enormous, including direct medical costs and lost productivity from otherwise healthy members of society.

Given that federal regulators are about to review an application by Entergy Nuclear for permission to extend the operating licenses of the two Indian Point reactors for another 20 years, a prudent policy would be to conduct further study and not to grant any extension until the public better understands to what extent, if any, the threat that Indian Point presents to local public health.
  

APPENDIX 1

Cancer Incidence by Zip Code, 1999-2003
Breast, Colorectal, Lung, Prostate Cancer
Rockland County
Zip Code
Post Office
Actual
Expected
% +/- Expected

10901, 82

Suffern
336
336.9
- 0.3
19013
Blauvelt
91
84.5
+ 7.7
10920
Congers
123
119.3
+ 3.1
10923
Garnerville
112
103.6
+ 8.1
10927
Haverstraw
133
112.5
+18.2
10928, 11, 22
Highland Falls
87
80.4
+ 8.2
10931
Hillburn
16
11.7
+36.8
10952
Monsey
292
317.8
- 8.1
10954
Nanuet
393
337.2
+16.5
10956
New City
495
481.2
+ 2.9
10960
Nyack
245
218.7
+12.0
10962
Orangeburg
88
103.2
- 14.7
10965
Pearl River
258
237.0
+ 8.9
10968
Piermont
40
37.0
+ 8.1
10970
Pomona
156
140.9
+10.7
10974
Sloatsburg
48
47.2
+ 1.7
10976, 64
Sparkill
78
49.8
+56.6

10977
Spring Valley
528
537.9
- 1.8
10980, 86
Stony Point
254
202.8
+25.2
10983
Tappen
103
99.6
+ 3.4
10984
Thiells
34
35.4
- 4.0

10989
Valley Cottage
152
150.0
+ 1.3
10993
West Haverstraw
92
67.1
+37.1
10994
West Nyack
119
103.1
+15.4
TOTAL ROCKLAND
4273
4014.8
+ 6.4
Note: Expected cases based on NY State rates.

 

Cancer Incidence by Zip Code, 1999-2003
Breast, Colorectal, Lung, Prostate Cancer
Westchester County

Zip Code Number

Post Office
Actual
Expected
+/- Expected
10501
Amawalk
24
9.0
+166.7
10502
Ardsley
88
89.5
- 1.7
10504
Armonk
119
104.2
+ 14.2
10506
Bedford
94
77.2
+ 21.8
10507
Bedford Hills
69
76.8
- 10.2
10510
Briarcliff Manor
180
147.1
+ 22.4
10511
Buchanan
34
31.3
+ 8.6
10514
Chappaqua
139
160.2
- 13.2
10520, 21
Croton on Hudson
206
221.3
- 6.9
10522
Dobbs Ferry
138
162.6
- 15.1
10523
Elmsford
98
111.3
- 11.9
10526, 78
Goldens Bridge
44
35.0
+ 25.7
10527
Granite Springs
8
17.0
- 52.9
10528
Harrison
192
193.4
- 0.7
10530
Hartsdale
287
220.9
+ 29.9
10532
Hawthorne
103
80.0
+ 28.8
10533, 03
Irvington
111
118.3
- 6.2
10535
Jefferson Valley
5
4.6
+ 8.7
10536
Katonah
130
167.2
- 22.2
10537
Lake Peekskill
20
19.9
+ 0.5
10538
Larchmont
286
253.5
+ 12.8
10541, 05, 42
Mahopac
334
334.4
- 0.1
10543
Mamaroneck
272
318.9
- 14.7
10546
Millwood
18
13.1
+ 37.4
10547, 88
Mohegan Lake
110
110.4
- 0.4
10548, 96
Montrose
73
67.4
+ 8.3
10549
Mount Kisco
197
202.2
- 2.6
10550, 51
Mount Vernon
581
479.6
+ 21.1
10552
Mount Vernon
361
340.9
+ 5.9
10553
Mount Vernon
158
160.5
- 1.6
10560
North Salem
57
80.4
- 29.1
10562, 45
Ossining
420
428.4
- 2.0
10566, 17
Peekskill
333
283.5
+ 17.5
10567
Cortlandt Manor
226
233.2
- 3.1
10570
Pleasantville
171
167.4
+ 2.2
10573
Port Chester
445
503.3
- 11.6
10576
Pound Ridge
75
74.4
+ 0.8
10577
Purchase
40
42.2
- 5.2
10580
Rye
291
247.2
+ 17.7
10583
Scarsdale
614
615.1
- 0.2
10589, 19, 40
Somers
255
216.2
+ 17.9
10590
South Salem
101
84.4
+ 19.7
10591
Tarrytown
268
278.3
- 3.7
10594
Thornwood
61
77.9
- 21.7
10595
Valhalla
120
119.5
+ 0.4
10597, 18
Waccabuc
27
16.5
+ 63.6
10598, 87
Yorktown Heights
419
445.8
- 6.0
10601
White Plains
140
136.2
+ 2.8
10603
White Plains
277
247.6
+ 11.9
10604
West Harrison
112
148.6
- 24.6
10605
White Plains
333
331.6
+ 0.6
10606, 02
White Plains
196
207.2
- 5.4
10607
White Plains
114
119.7
- 4.8
10701, 02
Yonkers
771
707.6
+ 9.0
10703
Yonkers
309
374.6
- 17.5
10704
Yonkers
539
514.9
+ 4.7
10705
Yonkers
418
412.1
+ 1.4
10706
Hastings on Hudson
156
143.8
+ 8.5
10708
Bronxville
432
410.2
+ 5.3
10709, 07
Eastchester
332
313.9
+ 5.8
10710
Yonkers
524
510.9
+ 2.6
10801, 02
New Rochelle
527
494.6
+ 6.6
10803
Pelham
163
171.7
- 5.1
10804
Wykagyl
272
250.9
+ 8.4
10805
New Rochelle
261
310.0
- 15.8

TOTAL WESTCHESTER

 
14278
14047.0
+ 1.6
Note: Expected cases based on NY State rates

 

Cancer Incidence by Zip Code, 1999-2003
Breast, Colorectal, Lung, Prostate Cancer
Regions of Rockland and Westchester County
Region (Zip Codes)
Actual
Expected
% +/- Expected

Within Five Miles of Indian Point
(10511, 10517, 10548, 10566, 10596, 10927, 10980, 10986, 10993)

919
764.6
+20.2
Central Rockland
(10920, 10923, 10952, 10956, 10977, 10984, 10989)
1444
1427.4
+ 1.2
West Rockland
(10901, 10931, 10952, 10970, 10974, 10982)
848
854.5
- 0.8
South Rockland
(10913, 10954, 10960, 10962, 10964,
10965, 10968, 10976, 10983, 10994)
1415
1270.1
+11.4
Northwest Westchester
(10520, 10521, 10537, 10546, 10547,
10562, 10567, 10587, 10588, 10595, 10598)
1419
1472.1
- 3.6
Northeast Westchester
(10501, 10505, 10507, 10518, 10519, 10526, 10527
(10535, 10536, 10540, 10541, 10542, 10549,
10560, 10576, 10578, 10589, 10590, 10597)
1420
1395.3
+ 1.8
Central Westchester
(10504, 10510, 10514, 10532, 10570, 10591, 10594, 10595)
1161
1134.6
+ 2.3
Yonkers, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle
(10550, 10551, 10552, 10553, 10701, 10702,
10703, 10704, 10705, 10706, 10707, 10708,
10709, 10710, 10801, 10802, 10803, 10804, 10805)
5804
5596.2
+ 3.7
Other South Westchester
(10502, 10522, 10523, 10528, 10530, 10533,
10538, 10543, 10573, 10577, 10580, 10583,
10601, 10602, 10603, 108604, 10605, 10606, 10607)
4034
4066.6
- 0.8
Source: New York State Cancer Registry, Department of Health, Albany NY. Available at http://nyhealth.gov/statistics/cancer/registry/zipcode/index.htm.

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